MySpace Mormons

August 31, 2006 | 53 comments
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MySpace recently overtook Yahoo as the most-visited website in the US.

For the two of you that haven’t heard of MySpace, it is a social networking website, where users can post photos and profiles, send messages to other users, create groups, plan events, and check each other out. Sites like FaceBook, Friendster, and LiveJournal are similar. I’m not a MySpace user, but I did create a FaceBook profile recently, just so I could look around. (Incidentally, I was surprised to see how many of the users were “Class of ’10″ — it seems only yesterday that I was a spry, cutting-edge Napster-user, and now I’m certainly the oldest FaceBook visitor on the planet. ) The rise of networking sites like MySpace and FaceBook has many social implications, but one in particular interests me: what impact will such sites have on the nascent Mormon identity of our youth? More specifically, how much will their Mormonism figure into their public self-presentation, and what effects might this have?

For me, and perhaps some of you, this would be only an academic question, even assuming we were MySpace users. I grew up in Salt Lake City, and I’ve got BYU on my resume, so I get the “So, you’re Mormon?” question very quickly after meeting new people, whatever the setting. But for many Mormon youth that are living outside of Utah/Idaho and have no obvious connection to recognizably Mormon institutions, the growing importance and ubiquity of these social networking websites pose a interesting dilemma. Do they put their religion in their profile? If so, do they say “Mormon” or “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”? Do they link as “friends” their “church-only” friends? Do they post pictures of youth conference? For returned missionaries, how do they characterize those 18 or 24 months? “Service”? “Proselyting”? “Mormon Mission”? Does it matter? I think it might.

Unlike real world interactions, where certain aspects of your identity are naturally emphasized or de-emphasized depending on the context, on sites like MySpace you have one profile that everyone can see — real-world acquaintances like a bishop, friends, and teachers, but also random others, like friends of friends, potential dates, and even potential employers. Rather than framing an identity based on context, you are are forced to present a static self-description to any and all comers. Aside from not telling certain people that you have an online presence (or vainly hoping Google fails them) you’re always already outed to all. Your Bishop will know you love death metal, yes. But more importantly, the cute girl you met at the party might write you off because you’re Mormon before you’ve even had a chance. I don’t think it is exaggerating to say that no other generation has had to stake out an identity to their peers so early, and so publicly. What are the MySpace Mormons to do?

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53 Responses to MySpace Mormons

  1. Susan M on August 31, 2006 at 4:13 pm

    I signed up for a myspace page ages ago, when it was still new, because most of my online friends and acquaintances had one. I quickly figured out it was a good way to get regular updates from bands about tours and shows, so most of my contacts on there are bands. It’s also becoming a good way to locate old high school friends–I’ve had two contact me via it and I tracked one down myself on there. But I don’t visit the site very often.

    My daughter has a myspace account. Her screen name on there actually uses the phrase “Latter-day Saint” and she has lot of her real-life friends as well as internet friends as contacts, including a lot of kids she knows from church, a lot of whom have their profiles set to private (viewable by friends only)–and all that I’ve seen have identified their religion as Mormon.

    I don’t think what you’re getting at is much of an issue. My daughter’s always identified herself as Mormon to her friends so they’d understand her standards, etc.

  2. Connor Boyack on August 31, 2006 at 4:17 pm

    I know of one BYU Stake President who told the students in his stake not to use MySpace at all. I read a copy of his talk, and he explicitly outlined all of the dangers and downsides to using such a site.

  3. Nate J on August 31, 2006 at 4:38 pm

    A high councilman in our stake even did a fifth Sunday combined RS/PH on the possible predators on these sites (he did not discuss Facebook). I used to have a page, but I deleted for some of the same reasons, namely:

    1. I did not want my daughter to see a hypocrite in her father (i.e. you can’t surf the net, but I can join webgroups that promote “medieval flagellates”)

    2. I felt like I was being moved into a marketing group. Not exactly my cup of chamomile.

  4. JM on August 31, 2006 at 5:02 pm

    I had a stake president that refused to include our stake in the church \”Stake and Ward Website\” listing because:

    1) He knew that would be a reason for people to use the internet (to go to the stake or ward website) which would…

    2) make them curious about the internet in general which would…

    3) introduce them to all sorts of nasty things, which would…

    4) cause many of them to sin and fall away from the church.

    I guess he knew better than the bretheren.

    It took him a couple of years, but he finally gave in and the stake now has a web presence on the church web site.

    In retrospect, I don\’t think anyone ever goes to the stake and ward web sites in that stake anymore because they never update the content.

    I find it strange that we put all of our effort into running away from the world when we should be preparing and strengthening ourselves to live in it. Doesn\’t mean we have to be \”of the world\”.

  5. Polly on August 31, 2006 at 5:07 pm

    Everything is dangerous in one form or another. To use any internet site requires common sense. My whole family including our dog has myspace. The kids don’t use their full name and you have to know their e-mail and name to be added as a friend. In the 2 years they have had it, there have been no problems. We all identify ourselves as Latter Day Saints (except the dog, she’s agnostic) and have found it a good way to keep up with friends and family. The youth leaders are also on and have found it an excellent way to keep an eye on the youth. It just is a great idea for us, we have learned about our kids and their friends this way. It has been interesting to see how the kids friends view them. My 17year old daughters friend sent a bulletin with a nasty header. She wrote to the friend who apologized and removed it. So yes I think it’s a good tool for communication.
    Polly

  6. mike on August 31, 2006 at 5:12 pm

    i use mine much the same way that susan does; mostly for bands and to find old friends. i think that it can be responsibly used by teenagers and college students with a bit of guidance from parents. like anything it can be abused, but if your kids have any street smarts then they should be fine.

  7. a random John on August 31, 2006 at 5:28 pm

    Connor,

    That is fine, but what do you think about it? Could the same arguments be applied to blogging, which isn’t that different from MySpace in many aspects?

  8. Last Lemming on August 31, 2006 at 5:33 pm

    My 17-year old daughter’s MySpace profile says that she is “Mormon and proud of it.”

    Now if she would just act like she was proud of it in the real world…

  9. Tanya Spackman on August 31, 2006 at 5:47 pm

    I have a myspace account, but I don’t really use it for much. I signed up so I could try to find some high school friends.

    One dull evening I decided to look up the teenagers in my ward (I serve in the YW program, so I know their names). I found a couple, and then from their friends I found a whole bunch of ‘em. I felt very voyeuristic, but it was interesting to see what they said about themselves and how they spoke to each other. All had LDS or Mormon listed as their religion. I’ve never told any of them I saw their myspace sites; if I were in their shoes, it would probably freak me out. I didn’t see anything particularly alarming, though. If I’d seen they were into something they maybe shouldn’t be, I might have pulled them aside and said something.

  10. Seth R. on August 31, 2006 at 6:44 pm

    I think MySpace is a potential minefield for a teenager. I think a parent has to make it perfectly clear to their child that the parent will be occasionally dropping-in and reading what is said on MySpace. Then the parent needs to do it and make the child aware after the fact.

    Some might consider this snoopy. Some of the kids might. But really, it’s just waking them up to the fact that this stuff is public information and that “public information” means that some people might be “reading you” whom you don’t want reading you. Perhaps a more tangible, close to home threat of mom or dad reading will resonate with a teenager better than generalized warnings about shadowy internet predators, or future employers.

  11. Susan M on August 31, 2006 at 7:36 pm

    My daughter shows me her myspace page all the time (she’s always redoing it). She’s also always sending messages to my myspace account from hers.

  12. gst on August 31, 2006 at 7:40 pm

    Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s mom has a Myspace site. http://www.myspace.com/mamazarq

  13. gst on August 31, 2006 at 7:40 pm

    But I don’t think she’s a Mormon.

  14. Connor Boyack on August 31, 2006 at 9:04 pm

    Here’s a post about the BYU stake president. And then there’s the Bishop who wrote the following:

    Although MySpace.com is only two years old, it is the second most active website on the internet, with over 80 million users. It is highly attractive to children, teenagers, young adults and even young married couples. Pornography is at the root of MySpace’s popularity; therefore, the more one uses MySpace the more an insatiable addiction develops to stay connected with the network. The addictive nature of MySpace can be as strong as a gambling or drug addiction. It has been coined by media as a “predator’s playground�, “sophomoric and salacious�, “having a voyeuristic appeal�, and being akin “to the hottest bar in town�.

    1. MySpace is an unholy place and contradicts counsel to stand “in holy places� and “as a witness of God at all times, in all things and in all places�. There is nothing holy about MySpace; it embraces pornographic pictures and videos, evil music, and lewd language. It is completely opposite from anything that is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.�

    2. MySpace activity leads one away from righteous living. Our youth are taught that “Satan uses offensive entertainment to deceive [them] by making what is wrong and evil look normal and exciting. It can mislead them into thinking that everyone is doing things that are wrong.� MySpace does exactly that – makes what is wrong and evil look Norman and exciting, deceiving youth to participate in vulgarity, immorality, violence and pornography. (see For the Strength of Youth, p. 17-19)

    3. MySpace’s primary draw and addictive element is pornography. Anyone using MySpace is usually no more than two clicks away from soft-core pornography. Because of continual exposure to such material, youth gradually and steadily become blinded to teachings that “pornography is poison that weakens [their] self-control, changes the way [they] see others, [and] causes [them] to lose the guidance of the Spirit.� The counsel to “turn away from [pornography] immediately� quickly goes unheeded. (see For the Strength of Youth, p. 19) Young men are attracted to MySpace because of pornography; young women are becoming the pornography.

    4. One of the genres being used by MySpace encourages young women to exhibit same-gender affection and amorous communication. Young women flirt with each other and post pictures of them hugging, touching, and even kissing each other. They talk about how sexy and hot they look. “i.e. hottie� and joke about seeing each other in immodest dress and/or use vulgar terms of anatomy, often calling each other “hos� (a slang term for whores), pimps, or other gender-degrading nouns and adjectives. This can be especially dangerous to those who struggle with same-gender attraction.

    5. MySpace foster dishonesty. Because membership is free, many minors join the network by giving false information regarding their age and then keep it secret from their parents. That belies the very standard of “Honesty� as they begin to rationalize “that wrong is right�. It is a stealth activity where secret passwords, codes and names are used to hide activity from parents and adults. (see For the Strength of Youth, p. 31)

    6. MySpace mock the meaning of “friend� and erodes the standard of “Friends� as outlined in For the Strength Youth. The council to “choose your friends wisely� is ignored when one uses MySpace. The very purpose of joining the network is to meet “friends�, the term MySpace attaches to each of the 80 million profiles. The number of friends becomes a status symbol among youth. The criteria used in determining or becoming a popular “friend� is based primarily on the allure of one’s profile – it has very little to do with using wisdom.

    7. MySpace is a prime example that “[lowering dress standards] sends the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval�. (see For the Strength of Youth, p. 15) Because marketing one’s profile to attract “friends� is highly competitive, users on MySpace have turned to immodest dress and inappropriate use of camera angle and special effects to enhance sex appeal and seduction, the components that most effectively attract attention. Even the youngest users are turning to sexual innuendos to sell their profiles and attract “friends�. Pornography-based agencies regularly browse MySpace profiles looking for young, attractive and “sexy� girls.

    8. MySpace embraces and normalizes the very language For the Strength of Youth warns against. Our youth are counseled that “profane, vulgar, or crude language . . . as well as jokes about immoral actions, are offensive to the Lord and to others. Foul language harms your spirit and degrades you. Do not let others influence you to use it�. MySpace activity not only influences, but quickly makes one comfortable in reading and using such language. (see For the Strength of Youth, p. 22)

    9. MySpace not only puts youth into “stranger danger�, it can compromise future social and employment opportunities. Youth often post personal information, i.e. where they go to school, their age, what clubs they belong to, their physical description, etc. It has been proven that sexual predators can locate children with as little as two obscure pieces of information such as a school mascot and their first name. Sexual predators are not the only ones who search profiles; more and more employers check MySpace profiles for clues to prospective employee’s personalities, personal habits and character before making job offers. Anything posted is public information and can and will most likely be viewed and used to make future judgments.

    10. A leader’s credibility may be comprised when MySpace is used by a family member. When leaders’ children use MySpace, a portal (i.e. a doorway or entrance) opens from their home into the network where all other uses can freely “flow in and out�. Their homes, in essence, become “glass houses�. For instance, one can “see� when their children are online, what subjects, words, phrases are being used to communicate with others, what pictures and videos are uploaded into their galleries and can actually trace their interaction with other profiles, all of which can be potentially personal and embarrassing to their parents. Sadly, when such a leader address youth, their testimonies of standards such as entertainment and media, language, choosing good friends, dress and appearance, sexual purity, etc., may fall on deaf ears.

  15. WillF on August 31, 2006 at 9:41 pm

    Thinking about MySpace gives me this nightmarish feeling that someday we are going to regret how candid we have been posting all these personal details about ourselves for everyone who wants to see. What happened to not “casting pearls before swine?”

  16. Greg Call on August 31, 2006 at 9:54 pm

    Connor, Nate J.: I see church leaders’ counsel to stay away from MySpace and FaceBook pretty much on par with early-20th century church leaders advice to stay away from billiards, and it should have a similar shelf-life.

    I’m more interested in how our youth (or the adults!) interact with it and how it might affect their nascent self-identity, if at all. It may be my bias as a risk-averse lawyer that makes me wonder about the effects of full self-disclosure. Judging by the responses above, as the Who sang, the kids are alright, and fine with telling their peers where they stand.

  17. WillF on August 31, 2006 at 9:59 pm

    Greg – Billiards is a lousy analogy. When you play billiards what you say and do doesn’t get recorded permanently in an archive that is potentially searchable by anyone.

  18. Greg Call on August 31, 2006 at 10:15 pm

    WillF: The analogy is not about the character of the thing warned against, but rather how to understand the respective warnings. In both cases, the leaders see a potentially dangerous and corrupting use for an activity, and it leads them to give blanket advice to avoid it altogether. In hindsight, we can see that billiards are not inherently bad, it’s just that we should avoid it to the extent it leads us toward inappropriate activities (gambling, become a drunk in a debauched billiards hall). Same with the networking sites. In any event, technology can deal with the concern you raise (and has, in the case of FaceBook — nothing is public except what you designate to be public).

  19. WillF on August 31, 2006 at 10:32 pm

    I think a better analogy would be that of nuclear fission. In the fifties it was thought to be much safer than what we know it to be today. There was a lot of excitement about the technology and people exposed themselves and others to dangers that today we see as foolish exuberance.

    We currently put a lot of trust in the companies that run these sites. We have no idea who will be the owners of the data we have so generously given them 20 years from now. Say someone hacks into Facebook and decides to make it all public. It isn’t far fetched. Maybe it is an employee who wants to take down the company.
    Even AOL, supposedly an old player in the game, recently blew it when an employee thinking he was doing good posted search records online without permission. Are you ready to trust your information to the policies and procedures of a Dilbertesque company?

  20. WillF on August 31, 2006 at 10:35 pm

    Having said all this I do have to admit to being a LinkedIn member. For some people the price of their info is social entertainment, for others it is the hope for better employment I guess.

  21. DKL on September 1, 2006 at 12:46 am

    I agree with Greg. The talk that Conner quotes is alarmist, myopic, and more typical of a luddite than anyone with a real understanding of the technology. Nearly everything it says is also true of the telephone or of blogging.

    gst, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s mom may not be Mormon, but I think she’s hearing the discussions.

  22. Polly on September 1, 2006 at 1:05 am

    Myspace does not allow nudity or porn. People that just spout things with no research bug me. Those quotes are very alarming as there is little basis in fact. The internet is here to stay. Nothing we say or do will change that. We need to learn to use it wisely and safely. To me it is no different from a library, where there is the worlds most beautiful literature and the worst. For us we have been online for 13 years and mange to do it without any problems. My kids know that we are constantly monitering them and no one has a computer they can use in privacy. Common sense people!
    Polly

  23. Mark Butler on September 1, 2006 at 1:23 am

    There are exceptions of course, but as a general rule I think the statement Connor quotes is right on target. I might say similar things about contemporary video games, though I suppose the risks and downsides are quite different.

  24. Crystal on September 1, 2006 at 1:58 am

    I use myspace. You can see my profile here: http://myspace.com/writegerl .

    It’s kinda of fuuny, the guy I’m dating learned all about me, and my Mormondom, from MySpace. I forget that my profile exists most the time. We were talking, and I was like… oh, you know I’m Mormon, right? And he reminded me that he was a MySpace friend and already knew that, though he had no idea what a Mormon was.

    I’ve gotten back in touch with a lot of people from my old ward through myspace, mostly from hopping from one friend’s profile to another. Most of my friends identify simply as Mormon, as casually as they might list their hometown or occupation.

  25. Nameless on September 1, 2006 at 2:01 am

    I think your question goes far beyond just myspace and address the new technological age in general. For example I’ve on-line dated (which is one of the reasons I am posting namelessly) and I’ve never “myspaced� (that can be a activity, right?)

    When I’ve online dated I’ve always had to answer a serious of questions such as: Male / Female? Straight / Gay? Wants Children / Doesn’t want children? Likes animals / doesn’t like animals? Smokes / doesn’t tolerate smoking? Drinks / doesn’t tolerate drinking? Religious, If so what? (This is one of the only questions that provides a drop down list). I’ve never felt that this question ever fit among the other questions, it has always seemed like the multiple choice question hidden in the true and false section.

    So you are right, never has a generation ever had to deal with such personal questions so early. But if you ask me (a grown woman living in the same crazy cyber-space as the myspace youth) having to define and defend things young has its advantages, for one repetition breads comfort.

  26. EB on September 1, 2006 at 11:39 am

    I’ve been using Myspace now for about 6 months and personally I haven’t found anything wrong with using it. I have the fact that I’m Mormon on my page along with having friends that are mormon on there. I use it to keep up with my sister who lives in Idaho and currently attends BYU-I and other friends who are in Utah, going to Southern Virginia University, or in the Singles ward in Tampa, FL. Everyone on there are my friends which i’m keeping track of. I’ve even met people on there who have questioned about my religion and have had a chance to talk to them about it but if there is something questionable about them or I get a bad Vibe from them i just don’t answer there messages and they go away. Also if I get a friend request I don’t Accept it unless I know them. It’s just for keeping up with those that are far from me that’s all. I think it’s a plus cuz they can put picks and movies up so I can Literally see how they are doing. True anyone can view the site but they can’t get to you unless you let them. I like what I read in another Comment “I find it Strange that we put all of out effort into running away from the world when we should be preparing and strengthening ourselves to live in it. Doesn’t mean we have to be ‘of the World’ ” by JM . The internet is a good tool and good for education and learning, but Satan will always be there trying new things to bring us down we can’t always run away from him. I believe we need to stand for what’s right and show him that we are strong and can take anything he throws at us…

  27. a random John on September 1, 2006 at 11:50 am

    Connor,

    I asked you what you think.

  28. DKL on September 1, 2006 at 12:13 pm

    I think the really important question is this: If Jesus were alive today, would he use a myspace.com account for social networking? I think that he would. Definitely.

  29. Jon in Austin on September 1, 2006 at 1:21 pm

    Re 14:

    That bishop should create a myspace account and put that statement on it as well so that more of our youth will have access to such precious data since they’re all already there.

    Oh, and how many times have I heard that the internet is the devil today?

  30. Connor Boyack on September 1, 2006 at 2:14 pm

    Random John,

    Sorry, I haven’t had much time to sit down and type out what I feel.

    Let it be known: I have an ldslinkup profile, a myspace profile (which I haven’t used in ages, and might as well delete), a facebook profile, and a linkedin profile.

    I like networking. I like staying in touch with friends that I normally wouldn’t remain in contact with. Linkedin, ldslinkup, and facebook all do a great job at that for me. I don’t see dangers on any of them, and will most likely continue to use them.

    I do, however, feel differently about MySpace. A couple years ago, I flat out stopped using it, and deleted my profile. I was sick of being forced to look at half-naked women once I logged in, in advertisements from the “True” dating service. True, MySpace doesn’t allow pornography, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t on there. There is an abundance of profiles with pictures of almost-naked men and women (and boys and girls), people in provocative poses, girls kissing each other, suggestive images that only serve to lead the mind where it should probably not go. It’s impossible for MySpace to effectively police every profile and check every picture, and so a lot of stuff seeps through the cracks.

    My parents have told my two younger brothers that they can have myspace profiles as long as they set them to “private” (allowing only their listed friends to see their profile, and not random strangers and would-be pedophiles) and also list them (my parents) as a friend, so that they can check up on their profile and assure there’s no garbage there.

    It’s all about the environment. When I had a profile, some of my non-LDS friends (and even some of my LDS ones) would post obscene things on my comments board, write bad jokes, profanity, and everything else. That’s not what I wanted on my profile, and so I would have to make sure to delete those things as soon as they were posted.

    Yes, the same holds true with blogging. Though I haven’t had too much of a problem on my blog, I do make sure to police the comments and assure that nothing bad has been submitted as a comment (thanks to Askimet, my spam woes are largely resolved). However, people that come to my blog are usually friends, family, and like-minded people that aren’t there to peddle pornography or cuss me out.

    It’s a gray area, but for me, the decision has been to not use MySpace, while cautiously using Facebook, LDSLinkup, and Linkedin. I will note, also, that it is different for guys and girls. I have many female friends on LDSLinkup who show me some of the emails they get, and they are NASTY. These come from people who claim to be LDS, RMs, and the lot.. but then write some really creepy letters, harassing these women and making sexually explicity suggestions or comments. So if I had a daughter, I suppose I would be more weary to allow access to these sites…

  31. Mark B. on September 1, 2006 at 3:46 pm

    Weary, indeed.

    If it’s myspace this year, it was anti-war protesters and hippies and bearded men and sandal (but no bra)-wearing women when I was young.

    And who needs myspace to be two clicks away from porn on the internet. I bet I could find it two clicks from T&S.

  32. a random John on September 1, 2006 at 10:57 pm

    Connor,

    Thanks for that.

    In my opinion most of the internet can be a double edged sword and we all need to be careful about how we use it. MySpace might be more prone to being near terrible things than, say, T&S, but even T&S has shown naughty modified Calvin and Hobbes cartoons in the past…

  33. jjohnsen on September 2, 2006 at 9:49 am

    I think the biggest danger of Myspace is the possiblity that young men and women might think it’s ok to put pink text on a black background with flashing GIF’s all over the place. I don’t avoid Myspace because of dangerous content, I avoid it because it’s ugly and gives me a headache.

    And now I feel old.

  34. Tanya Spackman on September 2, 2006 at 2:07 pm

    Ah, jjohnsen, you have hit upon the greatest horror of myspace — the atrocious sense of online design of teenagers. Shudder.

  35. Lady G on September 4, 2006 at 9:01 pm

    I know it\’s been 2 days since anyone posted on here but I\’m fairly new to T&S and am just catching up…And….at the risk of sounding like an old-fashioned, luddite old fogie…..what are kids doing on the internet anyway? I remember going outside and playing with friends, even though commodore 64s were just coming into their own and I was a whiz at both hangman and reformatting my dad\’s PC after installing the blue-screen wordperfect on top of itself too many times. Although my parents allowed us to watch television, play atari and fool around with the *powerful* new home computer, it was only allowed in doses. They made a conscious effort to balance our physical play-time, family dinner-time and electronic (tv, video games, movies, computer)-time. I can\’t help but think that if they were raising us in the current day and age, they would make just as concerted of an effort, perhaps moreso.

    Incidentally, I work as a software development project manager (so I’m more familiar than most with the internet and technology in general) and, at 31, can discern the pros and cons of internet use. The precise reason we shouldn\’t let our young children or teenagers have unfettered, unlimited, or unmonitored access to myspace (or any other internet site) is because they haven\’t quite developed to the point where they can discern what\’s safe and what\’s not, from a physical *or* spiritual perspective. That’s why they still need parents. We should be promoting a healthy balance—both for them and for ourselves. Based on my limited interaction with the site, I really don’t see how myspace.com helps to foster that balance, despite the networking functionality. Our own prophet has warned us against the dangers of internet chat rooms (Ensign, January 2001)…myspace is not really that different.

    That said, I just sent Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s mom a request to be added as one of her friends…

  36. Sarah on September 5, 2006 at 7:16 pm

    The statute of limitations for new comments on an old thread involves a complex formula relating to the inverse of some ratio involving the number of comments, the number of hours since the original post, divided by the square root of the number of major US holidays since the original post, times the number of trackbacks and number of links. I don’t worry about it, especially if it’s been less than a week since the post debuted.

    I hate MySpace, but that’s only because everyone makes their pages ugly. I have a MySpace account, which I use to access my friends’ pages; most of them are either from church or the Star Wars line. I also have a Facebook account (I was forced into creating several of these by friends who wanted to “friend” me online) and was one of the first few thousand Friendster members, before they opened it to the public and there were thirty-eight Madonna profiles with over 10,000 friends in the system. I don’t think any of them are particularly dangerous to people with good sense, and it remains that the worst damage that has ever been inflicted on anyone in my family via computer was a virus on a 3.5″ diskette a church member gave us — for genealogy (it was a “Disk 3/6″ type PAF data file.) It took down three of our computers.

    Of course, the operative sentence fragment is “people with good sense,” and given the number of tattoo parlors, palm readers, and “WORK JUST THREE HOURS A WEEK AND EARN $2.5 MILLION IN A YEAR ILL SHOW YOU HOW!!” posters on telephone posts there are in the world, one can’t be too shocked that at times, various church leaders behave as though good sense isn’t something to rely too strongly upon. My bishop’s eldest son has a DeviantArt account, and he’s on my friends list there (as is a 15 year old girl who does nothing but LDS art, all the time,) and my sisters know better than to do anything stupid online. That’s enough for me, says the girl who met her first boyfriend on a fiction writing email list…

  37. Riley Banks on September 6, 2006 at 1:25 pm

    How come ldslinkup isn\’t outlawed? I think it should be. It is a terrible site.

  38. WillF on September 6, 2006 at 11:23 pm

    Here is an article in Time magazine that illustrates I mean by not being able to predict how the company that owns your information (for all intents and purposes, if it is on their servers, you might as well consider them owners) might start messing with your privacy:

    Inside the Backlash Against Facebook
    Users of the popular site are angry about a new feature and are organizing their protest—on Facebook

    On Tuesday morning the popular social networking site unrolled a new feature dubbed the “News Feed” that allows users to track their friends’ Facebook movements by the minute…The feature in question appears on the user’s home page and looks like a glitzy laundry list. It chronicles every action a user’s friends have recently taken on Facebook. These include the mundane: Sally befriended Joan, the boring: Tim now likes The Daily Show, and the juicy: John and Beth broke up. And in case it matters, each action is time-stamped to the minute.

  39. a random John on September 7, 2006 at 1:11 pm

    This pretty much sums up my feelings on the matter.

  40. DKL on September 7, 2006 at 1:24 pm

    LOL, arj. Given my connection to the care bears, that has special meaning for me.

  41. random me on September 9, 2006 at 12:06 am

    Our old singles ward bishop gave a talk on myspace and practically commanded people remove their profiles. those who didn’t were called in. In contrast, our last ward had about 25% of its membership on board, including the bishopric. our current ward also had a fifth sunday lesson with the youth and parents, warning against the dangers of, specifically, myspace. I wasn’t in the meeting and wanted to ask the bishop his take… but didn’t feel like explaining why *I* have a myspace, albeit VERY private (can’t find me by any names or email addresses and it’s closed to everyone not on my friend list), and why i frequent the site.

    It’s quite common for kids to be aware their parents are checking out their pages and to even encourage their parents to do so, all the while keeping a “real” and secret profile. It’s happened to many friends, their kids having separate profiles the parents knew nothing of.

    Interestingly, my siblings-in-law are inactive and half are on myspace. one has a page littered with the “f word,” images of cocaine, inappropriate pictures, answers “yes” to the drinking/smoking question… and lists his religion as “mormon.” We haven’t figured out whether we should be glad he still identifies with it, in whatever regard, or embarrassed that he represents himself in such a way.

  42. Alison Moore Smith on September 9, 2006 at 2:51 am

    I have never been to myspace. OK, I just opened the home page so that I qualify to post here.

    Being old enough that cell phones, email, text messaging, etc., seem to provide me more than enough “social networking,” I’m left trying to figure out the draw to such sites. (Perhaps my problem is that all my friends are even less updated than I?)

    Still, I’ll be contrary, and say that our personal adoration of myspace doesn’t really address the issues of “the letter.” What does, I think, is whether or not we believe that a stake presdient can receive revelation about what his particular stake needs. If the best thing for HIS STAKE is to avoid using myspace, can’t he say so?

    I’ve heard similar, personal counsel delivered from the pulpit about everything from movie selections to sleep overs. As long as they aren’t countering doctrine of official policy, aren’t leaders allowed–even expected–to give counsel as directed by the Lord?

    Frankly, I think the billiards example is a great one to counter the intended argument. Why? Well, what were the circumstances at the TIME the counsel was given? Where were billiards generally played and in what conditions? How has that changed today?

    Perhaps the fact that some counsel is short-lived has less to do with how wise the counsel was and more to do with the fact that it was given at a very particular time, for a very particular people, in a very particular circumstance. What a blessing it is that God cares enough to give us such personal guidance through our leaders!

  43. pj on September 9, 2006 at 11:36 am

    I’m not sure that I believe that a stake president can receive such revelation in those circumstances. What I do believe is that far too often someones personal biases are showing through. Our stake president has issued such “revelation” that young women are not to wear their hair up as the nape of the neck is too sexy. Time and again he has shown his bias against women. He believes that ALL internet usage is bad. It is to the point that I don’t believe anything he has to say. There are alot of other issues with him, but too many in our stake feel this way as well. So I think just because he has been called of God at one time doesn’t mean that everything he says 100% of the time is revelation.
    We are all imperfect men and women and we all can and do make mistakes.

  44. DKL on September 9, 2006 at 1:22 pm

    Returning to the topic of my comment #28 (which is, I think, a key issue that nobody here is really addressing straight on). It looks like Jesus does have his own myspace page.

    In fact, if you search for Jesus, it appears that he has several pages. If this is not a divine sanction, then I don’t know what is!

  45. Alison Moore Smith on September 9, 2006 at 5:25 pm

    pj, there won’t be much foundation for discussion between us on this point if you really don’t believe that stake presidents can receive revelation in regard to their stewardship–since I do.

    Of course, that doesn’t suggest that “everything he says 100% of the time is revelation.” Rather a straw man. And what percentage he is is something to be worked out both by him and by his stake members together.

    Still, anecdotally, I think we have a much greater tendency to ignore inspired council by labeling it “personal bias” because we simply don’t want to make changes (or by calling ourselves exceptions to the rule) than we do to blindly follow crazy biases by those abusing their callings to boss us around. But maybe I’ve just had a string of 42 years of basically decent leaders. Call me lucky. :)

  46. pj on September 9, 2006 at 5:47 pm

    Alison, I was careful to state my personal experience, I don’t believe that just because the stake president finds the nape of the neck sexy, that that means that Heavenly Father wants all young women to wear their hair down. And if the internet was evil then the church should not have a site. With regards to myspace I see nothing wrong with careful monitering of use. I DO believe that a stake president can and does receive revelation, but not 100% of the time. Maybe some do, but I don’t think ours does. And you are probably lucky or maybe I am just unlucky.

    http://www.myspace.com/pollyjk

  47. YL on September 9, 2006 at 7:17 pm

    Allison Moore Smith Comments 42, 45

    Great comments!

  48. random me on September 10, 2006 at 12:53 am

    see, this is why myspace is fun… pj, we are in socal (in fact, my husband was in fullerton just today, checking out a flyfishing shop), are disneyland regulars, and i am also a doula (dona and i used to be with ucsd’s doula program)! what fun!

    of course stake presidents can receive revelation on behalf of their stake. hopefully most, if not all, are righteous in their endeavors and heed the voice of the spirit and not the one in their head. we’ve always had phenomenal stake presidents and the myspace counsel we’ve always heard of has come from bishops and branch presidents, never any higher.

    yes, jesus is on myspace. so are most of the prophets. unfortunately, the persons behind the curtains are rarely good-hearted. they’re frequently found on the lds myspace message boards, of which there are dozens.

  49. Gib on September 19, 2006 at 2:37 am

    so YES myspace or NO myspace??

  50. robert on January 28, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    Interesting comments, although Greg’s questions about adolescent identity seem unexplored.

    I’m on Myspace.com, of course, (albeit with only a few friends that I transferred there from real life), and I am amazed as I notice profiles from time to time at how self-aware and identified the younger generation appears to be.

    My first reaction when considering the ramifications implied in Greg’s questions coupled with the social network phenom is one of optimism instead of wariness – I can’t see Myspace.com doing anything less than helping youth solidify their beliefs and toughen their identities at a younger age; which seems in-step with today’s world. I am of the mind that people should be exposed to and aware of everything (if they intend to be informed and conscious human beings), and social networking sites provide an opportunity for parents to teach and for children to be exposed to many things that they otherwise may never experience together.

    I’m assuming here that parents want to help their children learn and to become intelligent human beings. Myspace.com would have allowed for many interesting discussions in my home growing up, discussions I never had with my parents and never will. Great opportunity for families to talk about identity, about friends, about the things that parents are so worried about – it’s brilliant. Scared about stalkers? Talk about them and how to avoid them, maybe about what the social networking sites are doing to protect against them, maybe also a couple of examples from the media where bad things have happened.. Worried that youth will be exposed to ugly things? Talk about those things – they will be exposed someday no matter what, and what better way than with parents?

    Some of the other perspectives in these comments almost gave me a headache… trying to protect people by keeping them ignorant seems to be much like keeping a series of lies afloat; avoiding something does not make it go away. Embracing something, engaging it and discussing it, is how people and communities grow stronger. Isolation is not an intelligent solution. I see opportunities for growth both for youth and for families. Avoiding technology because you don’t trust it (or yourself around it) is a position of weakness and cowardice, unwillingness to optimistically embrace our world.

    Also, I don’t believe all the bumblings about stake presidents and bishops advising against using the Internet or social networking sites, the whole concept strikes me as absolutely ludicrous. Same goes for privacy issues – who cares if the whole world knows one or two of your favorite songs and sees a couple of vacation pics? As if the world had time to look at any of your information.. (not that your information is not interesting and meaningful, it’s just that the world is a very busy place, and you are very likely not a news headline.)

    Incidentally, Jesus isn’t the only extraterrestrial Being on Myspace.com.. God and Satan are also there, as is Zeus, and they are friends with all sorts… :)

  51. Jay LeVitre on March 8, 2007 at 12:25 am

    While reading this blog, I am impressed that agency was never mentioned. One of the appeals about myspace is the capability to filter out unwanted users, comments, content in searches and the options one can use to protect one\’s identity. I am 23 and use myspace to keep in touch with friends from highschool, mission buddies, acquaintances, current school-mates and networking resources for education and career purposes. I am fully aware that you can find whatever floats your boat on myspace, that is the true appeal, the fact that it is pornography for many is indisputable, but only reflects on the individual searching and not the resource. If used wisely, you will only find what you are truly looking for on myspace, in which case the pure in heart are safe. For the rest of us, we may be vulnerable, but the continual suggestion that we are vulnerable from certain people isn\’t exactly empowering, it merely promotes fear of oneself, which chases away all faith in oneself, rendering us more vulnerable still. Like good parenting, it may be a more effective and empowering method to offer positive reinforcement, expressing to our youth that we trust them, that they are able and willing to make good choices while living in the world (but not of the world), but also warning them of the consequences for making poor choices of friends and uses on myspace. Also the implementation of the many filters available all but eliminate any undesired or inappropriate content.

  52. Scott on July 5, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    My wife just got off the phone with her ex (we are all Church members) and he has been very difficult in making time for their son to come visit. He says it is wrong for my wife to have a myspace page and was very upset when he discovered that their son (14 yrs old) has one too. He says that the Church has come out and said that if you have a myspace page that you should get rid of it. Anyone heard anything like that?

  53. Julie M. Smith on July 5, 2007 at 10:24 pm

    Scott,

    I’ve heard of individual stake presidents in certain areas saying that. I have heard of nothing church-wide.

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